Inspirational Raza books UAE's berth at T20 World Cup; Ireland end Oman's hopes
UAE captain takes 5 for 19 to power 68-run win against Nepal, while McBrine helped Ireland qualify for the seventh straight edition
UAE 175 for 7 (Waseem 70, Aravind 46, Mukhiya 3-35) beat Nepal 107 (Dipendra 38, Raza 5-19) by 68 runs
Less than three years after the national team was brought to its knees by a devastating fixing scandal, UAE have completed the valley to peak transformation by qualifying for only their second ever T20 World Cup after a 68-run drubbing of Nepal in the tournament semi-finals. Captain Ahmed Raza, who kept the faith in spite of the chaotic events from October 2019 which left his side gutted, led his side to victory with a maiden T20I five-wicket haul to run away with Player-of-the-Match honours as UAE secured a return to the T20 World Cup for the first time since 2014.
Raza had never taken more than two wickets in a T20I spell entering the day, but saved his finest performance for the most important of occasions. After medium pacer Junaid Siddique's new ball burst decimated the Nepal top-order inside the first three overs to leave the score at 14 for 3 chasing a target of 176, Raza ripped the heart out of the Nepal middle order by claiming the two most prized scalps off consecutive deliveries in the 13th over, former captain Gyanendra Malla for 20 driving a catch to Muhammad Waseem at long-on and then in-form vice-captain Dipendra Singh Airee lbw for 38. At 83 for 6, Nepal were left deflated and Raza capitalised by ripping through the tail for three more wickets as Nepal were eventually bowled out for 107 in 18.4 overs.
The win was set up by another rollicking display by the tournament's leading scorer, 19-year-old Vriitya Aravind, who blitzed the Nepal bowling attack after entering in the second over to score 46 off 23 balls, including five fours and three sixes. Aravind dominated a 66-run partnership with Waseem before finally falling to Nepal captain Sandeep Lamichanne in the eighth over.
But Waseem picked up the slack afterward as medium pacer Abinash Bohara bore the full brunt of the opener's power-hitting, leaking a six and two fours in the 11th over to put UAE in total command. Waseem clobbered Kamal Singh Airee's medium pace for another six in the 13th to bring up a 32-ball half-century, eventually ending with four fours and the same number of sixes in his 70 off 48 balls before falling in the 17th. It was part of a late flurry of wickets in which UAE lost 25 for 5 in a 17-ball sequence, but Raza and Rohan Mustafa combined to strike 14 off the final seven balls of the innings to put the target well beyond Nepal.
Ireland win big against Oman
Ireland 165 for 7 (Delany 47, McBrine 36, Bilal 3-23, Kaleemullah 2-40) beat Oman 109 (Shoaib 30, Simi 3-20, Little 2-14) by 56 runs
The only Full Member in the tournament dashed the dreams of the qualifier hosts, who were hoping to get back to a third straight T20 World Cup, as Andy McBrine's solid all-round display clinched a 56-run win for Ireland and a spot in the T20 World Cup for the seventh consecutive occasion. Entering the day, Ireland did not have a single batter with 100 runs in the tournament, and nobody outside the top three of Paul Stirling, Andy Balbirnie and Gareth Delany had scored more than 39 runs.
So when Stirling and Balbirnie fell to left-arm pacer Bilal Khan during a sizzling double-wicket maiden in the third over after being sent in to bat, it seemed unlikely that Ireland's struggling middle order would be able to revive the innings. But Delany and Harry Tector forged a spectacular counterattack during an 82-run third-wicket stand, which reached its climax when Delany smashed Oman captain Zeeshan Maqsood out of the attack with a hat-trick of sixes that cleared the rope at midwicket and long-on in a 19-run 11th over.
The momentum shifted back dramatically to Oman during an eight-ball sequence beginning in the 13th when Ireland lost 3 for 4 as Kaleemullah claimed Tector at backward point for 35 before getting Lorcan Tucker to chop on for a golden duck. A bigger blow was struck in the next over though as Khawar Ali's magnificent spell of legspin ended Delany's innings at 47, skying a top-edged slog sweep to Bilal at short fine leg, as Ireland slipped from 101 for 2 to 105 for 5.
That triggered the arrival of McBrine, who entered the day with just 106 runs in 14 T20I innings but turned in a career-best 36 off 21 balls from No. 7. Knowing Bilal had two overs up his sleeve at the death, McBrine shrewdly chose to attack the opposite end during overs 18 and 20. Aamir Kaleem's left-arm spin was smashed for a pair of sixes in the 18th before Fayyaz Butt was punched for a pair of boundaries in the 20th, giving Ireland a lift heading into the break.
Mark Adair then struck the first blow during a timid powerplay by Oman as a top-edge by Kashyap Prajapati was taken at short third man by Craig Young for 7. Jatinder Singh's poor run of form continued for Oman with an unfortunate lbw decision to Simi Singh for 7 in which replays indicated he was struck well outside the line of off stump on an attempted flick through midwicket.
Oman maintained hope through a 40-run stand between Shoaib Khan and Maqsood. But an inspired bowling change by Balbirnie produced a double-wicket over in the 11th. Josh Little had bowled a sharp new-ball spell in which he conceded conceded just nine runs in two overs. Upon his return for a fresh spell, he found the outside edge twice in the space of four balls for a pair of edges behind to Tucker. Shoaib was cramped up by a short ball before Khurram Nawaz perished with a tame swish outside off for a third-ball duck to make it 68 for 4.
Maqsood tried to soldier on but Singh sparked a swift collapse beginning in the 14th over as Oman lost their final six wickets for 25 runs. Khawar Ali's attempted reverse sweep went pear-shaped for a simple lbw decision to go for 10. Young returned to the attack in the 15th, getting Naseem Khushi to heave to McBrine at deep midwicket for 1 before Maqsood's vigil ended for 28, skewing a cut to Singh diving forward for a sharp catch at backward point off the next ball.
McBrine sewed up Player of the Match honors in the 16th. Having bowled three tidy overs to concede just 14 runs, he struck twice in his final frame with the ball, getting Aamir Kaleem overstretching for a sharp stumping by Tucker for 1 before Kaleemullah heaved to Adair at long-on for 8. A relay effort between Tector and Adair to intercept a last desperate heave from Butt at the deep midwicket rope secured the final wicket for Singh to make victory official.
After an off day on Wednesday, the teams return to Al Amerat on Thursday with UAE and Ireland contesting the tournament final to determine seedings for the T20 World Cup: the winner will join Sri Lanka and Namibia - plus the runners-up of Qualifier B in Zimbabwe in June - in Group 1 of the first round, while the runner-up will be in Group 2 with West Indies, Scotland and the winner of Qualifier B.
Nepal and Oman will face off in the third-place play-off with only ranking points at stake. The same goes for Bahrain and Canada in the fifth-place match while Germany and Philippines each go in search of their first win of the tournament in the seventh-place play-off.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna